Great Lessons in Leadership – General Colin Powell
1. Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off.
2. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have
stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help
them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of
3. Don’t be buffaloed by experts and elites. Experts often possess more
than judgement. Elites can become so inbred that they produce
hemophiliacs who bleed to death as soon as they are nicked in the real
4. Don’t be afraid to challenge the pros, even in their own back yard.
5. Never neglect details. When everyone’s mind is dulled or distracted,
the leader must be doubly vigilant.
6. You don’t know what you can get away with until you try.
7. Keep looking below surface appearances. Don’t shrink from doing so
just because you might no like what you find. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix
it” is the slogan of the complacent, the arrogant, or the sacred.
8. Organization doesn’t really accomplish anything. Plans don’t accomplish
anything, either. Theories of management don’t much matter. Endeavors
succeed or fail because of the people involved. Only by attracting the
best people will you accomplish great deeds.
9. Organization charts and fancy titles count for next to nothing.
10. Never let your ego get so close to your position that when your
position goes, your ego goes with it.
11. Fit no stereotypes. Don’t chase the latest management fads. The
situation dictates which approach best accomplishes the team’s mission.
12. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.
13. Powell’s rule for picking people. Look for intelligence and judgement,
and, most critically, a capacity to anticipate, to see around corners.
Also look for loyalty, integrity, a high energy drive, a balanced ego, and
the drive to get things done.
14. Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through
argument, debate and doubt, to offer a solution everyone can understand.
15. Part I: Use the formula P@ to 70 in which the P stands for the
probability of success and the numbers indicate the percentage of
information acquired. Part II: Once the information is in the 40 to 70
percent range, go with your gut.
16. The commander in the field is always right and the rear echelon is
wrong, unless proved otherwise.
17. Have fun in your command. Don’t always run at a breakneck pace. Take
leave when you’ve earned it. Spend time with your families. Surround
yourself with people who take their work seriously, but not themselves,
those who work hard and play hard.
18. Command is lonely.